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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

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The London Logs: Phyllis Diller, R.I.P.

August 20th, 2012 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

“I do dinner in three phases. Serve the food, clear the table, bury the dead.”

~ Phyllis Diller
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310 Million Tits!

August 31st, 2010 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

Author’s Note: This post’s title (taken from former US Sen. Alan Simpson’s pejorative quote about Social Security made earlier this week) has nothing to do with this blog, but when I first read the headline, I thought it was “310 million HITS” and I thought, “YE—AHH! I want 310 million hits!“ So, I’m shamelessly, uh, milking an out-of-touch Senator’s foolishness for my own benefit.
Speaking of milking, I took full advantage of my Berlin Museum Pass. Cost: € 19 for all the museums I could squeeze into 3 consecutive days. I hit: (more…)

Ich Bin Ein FAT Berliner

August 31st, 2010 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

Dining in Berlin is al fresco in the hood I’m in (Kurfürstendamm – the Champs Élysées of Berlin lined with stores like Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermés, Valentino – all closed on Sundays). It’s been rainy, so all the restaurants here have heaters and shawls folded over the seats. My first night, I had an extraordinary dinner (lamb and eggplant in a tart yogurt sauce) at a Turkish restaurant (Baba Angora, I loved it so much, I returned on my last night! (Teresa, try Angora red wine! She’s on her way to Turkey to read from her fabulous book Noah’s Wife. Treat yourself: She just won ForeWord’s 2009 Historical Fiction Book-of-the-Year!)
Street Performer on Museum Island, Berlin

Category: , Berlin, Kurfürstendamm

Barely Breathing….

June 11th, 2009 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments 1 Comment »

When working with refugees, one holds one’s breath.

Not like the way we did when we were kids, when we’d see how many times we could cross the pool without surfacing, deliberately pushing our lungs to their limits.

It’s more like you just forget to breathe for so long that a section of your diaphragm goes numb, until your breath is in a holding pattern not unlike the lives of the families you hope to help.

Yesterday, I learned an Iraqi I thought was dead is alive, married and living in Ithaca, NY.


I had written about Dhia, the resourceful young man who worked at the coffee house across the street from my Baghdad hotel. Dhia, who befriended me and trusted me, before becoming a translator for the US Army, a potentially fatal job during the early months of the US occupation.dhia.jpg

I wrote about how Dhia’s hair-curling coffee and candid conversation were a refuge for me from the tumult of Iraq’s pre-war jittery streets and about how I tried to find him after the war began.

I heard from him briefly via US Army e-mail in the fall of 2003, then never again. (more…)

The Bitch and The Chow

March 25th, 2009 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments 3 Comments »

[This an occassional post elucidating my life on the road this year as I criss-cross America, housesitting and petsitting, while I write my book and rent out my own home in Santa Monica.]

Next week, I was supposed to be dog/housesitting for Pixie, a chow-chow with separation anxiety so severe she once threw herself through a plate glass window. It did occur to me that watching this chow might be more than I could chew.

However, Cheryl, the owner, assured me in her syrupy voice that Pixie had been through extensive therapy and was doing better. Good. She could not, however, be left alone for more than a quick grocery run. (more…)

Category: , Housesitting

Refugee, American-Style

March 9th, 2009 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

“I still have family who is scattered,” says Kirk Stevens over lunch at the iconic Little Dizzy’s in New Orleans, 3 ½ years after the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina blew his family throughout the South.
“My family is scattered,” said a 75-year-old woman in Amman, Jordan, half a world away, 5 years after the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq sent her family scrambling. Her husband died during the first Gulf War. Her 3 adult children fled to Sweden and Jordan, her youngest committed suicide. “I brought nothing (except) the death certificates for my husband and son.”

“Refugee” became a politically charged word to describe the displaced Louisianans and Mississippians strewn throughout the south. How could an American be a “refugee” in his or her own country? Yet, we don’t blink when we use the neutered term “internally displaced refugees” to describe the 2 million Iraqis who have been forced from their family homes but don’t have the funds or the desire to leave their home country.

Perhaps the image of lines of people carrying scant (more…)

Locked Out of the Lower Ninth

March 6th, 2009 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

“People in the Lower Ninth Ward know more about climate change and what it can do than [people] anywhere,” said Pam Dashiell, fighting a cold, “and they know it on an intrinsic level.” The co-director of the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Engagement and Development said the communities of the Lower Ninth Ward have a goal of being carbon neutral by

“We have more solar here than in any other part of the City. There were 17,000 people here, pre-levee breaks. We are projecting 15,000 prosperous, environmentally conscious, forward-looking people [will return].”

It’s been proven that global warming contributes to the Gulf of Mexico’s increasingly aggressive and frequent hurricanes. New Orleans’ environmental vulnerability is compounded by the debris and toxics (more…)

Rocky Start for Schoolchildren

March 4th, 2009 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

“I don’t think they expected kids from this community to go to high school,” said Oscar Brown, a graduate of Carver High School. When the City of New Orleans produced its “master plan” to raise the hurricane-razed city into the 21st century, it entirely ignored the Ninth Ward – the largest of the City’s 17 wards – precluding the devastated community from receiving any federal rebuilding funds. children-play-in-unsafe-yard.jpg
When the school district prepared its “master plan,” it omitted rebuilding the one high school in the Ninth Ward – leaving 3,000 high school students languishing. “But they do that all the time,” said Brown matter-of-factly.

The community fought back and now the high school will be rebuilt – eventually. But today, three and a half years after the levees broke, children are still being taught in temporary trailers.

New Orleans was broken long before the levees collapsed. Seventy percent of adults in Orleans Parrish did not read at a high school level, (more…)

Stillness in the Ninth Ward – Still

March 3rd, 2009 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

There was nothing alive but the mold that marbled the walls and ceilings. No rats or roaches, just the intimate remnants of people’s lives: An upturned tricycle, intact figurines, a porn DVD.
Abandoned Homes in the Ninth Ward
Standing outside, I could smell the mold. “Imagine an entire city smelling like that. That’s what it was like right after Katrina,” Oscar Brown turned from the abandoned housing project. Front porches were tattooed with spraypainted symbols indicating the date each home was searched and the initials of the unit of the national guard that conducted the search – and the number of bodies discovered inside.
Abandoned Tricycle
Brown toured 19 masters’ students from the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University and me through New Orleans’ Ninth Ward in preparation for our week of assisting with home rebuilding.

He pointed out the former police station, now closed and abandoned, mentioning that the National Guard’s last day securing the Ninth Ward was three days ago. Louisiana can no longer afford their services, said Brown. We saw no patrolling police during our five-hour tour.

Gone are small stores owned by members of the community. “We need businesses. We need banks,” said Marcia Peterson of the Divine Street Ministries, for whom Brown also works. “There’s no internet here. This is the only part of the City that has not rebuilt its basic services. When I moved back, I had to rethink and replan my life around when services are available.”
Mold-Ravaged Kitchen
Indeed, as we drive throughout the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward, we see no neighborhood restaurants or bars, no shoe repair shops or dry cleaners, no little convenience marts. Only one grocery store remains, although we hear reports of a second opening “soon.”
Ninth Ward House
“My wife and I just had a daughter,” Brown says in response to a question about access to health care. “The nearest was 45 minutes away.” Mortality rates in the Ninth Ward have tripled since Katrina, says Peterson. “They had to create a whole new section of the newspaper to deal with the obituaries.”

Hurricane Katrina hit August 28, 2005, displacing tens of thousands of people. Three and a half years later, less than half have returned home.

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All That You Heard That It Was

January 22nd, 2009 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments No Comments »

I’ve never played an instrument, but I imagine performing in a world class orchestra might be similar to the feeling of being in the crowd at the Mall on the morning of Pres. Obama’s Inauguration. Capitol at DawnIt was nothing I’ve ever experienced and I’m still having trouble defining the feeling of being part of something larger than the sum of its parts. The feeling of being part of something more grand and more noble than I could possibly experience alone. The feeling of an electricity that charged me and everyone around me to be better, kinder, taller. The feeling that connected me to humanity and made me want to be connected.

The crowds were crushing, as you’ve heard, the weather was biting, the chaos was, well, chaotic. But I will never forget the feeling of being exalted, as I imagine musicians must feel when their orchestra crescendos, time after time during the small encounters with people who had come from all over America to be part of America.

Maybe this is what soldiers feel – that sense of being a small part of something so much larger than you could ever have imagined, of having pride well in your chest until you surprise yourself by being near tears.

Then, of course, there was the drag of the pure logistics: It was really friggin cold, (more…)

Category: , Obama Inauguration
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